Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to school

Yesterday Garrett and I both went back to school -- one of us to preschool, and one of us on the way to a PhD. (Figure out who is who, and Gryffindor gets 10 points!). Needless to say, we're both feeling a bit overwhelmed. (Is "a bit overwhelmed" an oxymoron? I find myself saying it a lot as a teacher and then I laugh at myself. And then cry.)

I am working at an early childhood center that is part of the Houston public school system. It is a school that consists entirely of preschool classrooms (19 to be exact -- nearly 400 4-year-olds!). It is also a Title I school (as well as another title or two), so the majority of the children are from low-income families, are learning English as a second language, or both. I am a special ed co-teacher in the two classrooms that have been labeled inclusion rooms (children with disabilities in with typically developing kiddos). One of these classes is an English classroom, and the other is bilingual -- that is, Spanish for pretty much the whole day. Eep!

We had open houses last week, so we were able to meet most of the families before school started. In an interesting turn of events (or, rather, lack thereof), it was revealed to me that none of the families knew their children had been placed in inclusion rooms. One of my co-teachers wasn't planning on telling her families, while the other was openly sharing it with hers. I found it odd that some people felt it was best to "cover it up" rather than ruffle some feathers. (But perhaps I have watched a few too many "X-Files" reruns.) Aren't we supposed to be proud of this teaching philosophy/model? How to explain the presence of a special ed teacher in the class? Anyways, we ended up "spilling the beans," and most of the parents are cool with it... though you could tell some were worried -- that their kids might catch a disability?? After the first couple days, I can already tell you that the "normal" child of one particularly concerned parent is way more trouble than my kiddo with autism. :)

The Spanish classroom is an exciting and active one. I am dusting the cobwebs from my brain and trying to recall my high school Spanish. (Was that really a decade ago??) The children are very sweet and understanding. I should mention that my co-teacher is from Venezuela, so this is not the blind/blonde leading the blind/bilingual here. I can tell you that I was left alone with 19 Spanish-speaking children for 30 minutes while my co-teacher took a lunch break, and no one got hurt. I'm using a lot of "Vamos a..." This is a very handy construction. Also, when you give commands to 4-year-olds, you get to use the "tu" command, which is the same as regular 3rd person conjugation. :) Despite my general Spanish foundation, I am lacking a lot of early childhood vocabulary, like verbs that have to do with Play-Doh and playground activities like going down the slide. I'm sure I'll pick it up.

The English classroom is fun, too. However, I am able to speak more there, which means that I have to do more leading and corraling... which, I discovered today, I am a bit rusty at. In my autism classroom, there were 5 (mostly nonverbal) kids and 3-4 adults. In this class, there are 18 kids and 2 adults. Kids who can talk back!!! I had an abysmal time trying to get 9 kids to sit for a story today. They were running all over, fighting with each other, and other such nonsense. Yes, for most of them it's the first time they've been in school, but really -- don't they know I have a master's degree?! Apparently it doesn't impress them. My co-teacher came to the rescue, saying things like, "Oh, it makes me so SAD to see all of my friends behaving this way for Miss Kitchen!" This is totally not the way I've been dealing with kids with autism. I'm supposed to REASON with kids now? and appeal to their emotions? Whoa, dude. Whoa.

It's a school night, so I should be off to bed. Thanks for reading! Hope you come back!

Monday, August 25, 2008


Thank you to all of our friends in Florida. I'm very sad to be so far from you all. Each of you made my life interesting and better in a unique way. Thank you for sharing your time and your friendship with Kristin and I. If I saw you during my last few days in Orlando, see if you can spot your signature above. Best, best regards - Garrett

Our Apartment

Our awesome new apartment building. Vintage '60's. The entire thing.

The living room and dining area. We're still a little unpacked/unfurnished. But look, there's an inflatable guest bed! We'd love to have some visitors!

The bedroom (aka, the furnished half of our apartment).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We made it to Texas!

I have missed you!!! The "real" you's and the "e-mail" you's!!! I am checking my e-mail at the public library right now. It feels so good to be connected to the world, even it is brief!!! I will write in stream of consciousness, as time is precious. ;) The trip to Texas went well, and for the most part, was quite dull. There isn't too much to see on I-10 between Tallahassee and Houston! We stayed on night in Louisiana, in a town where Garrett lived in 1994. We drove by a park to see if a mural he painted was still there, but alas, it wasn't.

We arrived in Houston around 4pm on the 1st, and it was a crisp 102 degrees. Omigod! I can't believe we unloaded our cars without passing out. We thought we were tough, coming from Orlando, but the heat here is so intense! I hear it will pass... by October. :P

We spent the first few days going to Ikea (overwhelming!), and starting to unpack. A few days after we arrived, Tropical Storm Edouard came to town. What excellent timing! There was a MANDATORY EVACUATION from our building (university apartments). It's not that they thought our building (circa 1960) would collapse, but that pieces of construction from across the street (fancy new grad student apartments) would come flying at us. So we spent a night in one of the Rice undergrad dorms -- totally retro! It was like being back in college, but this time I didn't have to restrain myself whenever Garrett walked by!!! [note: edited by Garrett]. We slept in bunk beds and ate in the dining hall. We also got to meet alot of the other grad students in our building. This was nice/funny -- we bonded through disaster! The storm itself was a non-event; it rained a lot but nothing more.

I went to new teacher orientation, which was more of a disaster than Edouard. They cancelled the first day of the 3-day event (because of the storm), and then had to make up for that the following 2 days. It wasn't very productive, but what can you do. On Friday night we went to go see a free outdoor Shakespeare production of "Cymbeline," which I read at Harvard but did not remember. (Well, I only remembered that I didn't dislike it.) It was excellent! I highly recommend it -- a happy version of "Romeo & Juliet." It reminded me of all the free outdoor Shakespeare of NYC -- ah, Houston you just might be okay after all! Actually, I just read somewhere that Houston has the 2nd largest theater district in the country, after NYC. Impressive!

Our apartment is only now beginning to take shape. We only have one key to share between us at the moment. The very first night, we blew a fuse by turning on an AC unit and then were stranded in the dark (lucky I brought a flash light). Garrett fixed that problem, but we still do not have hot water! The gas company finally showed up (after Edouard!), but then there is something wrong with the water heater. It's okay to take a few cold showers when it's super hot, but now it's just getting old. Also, Garrett had been trying to get us Internet and phone through AT&T, but in the end it was so f***ed up that we just cancelled it today and are going to start fresh with another company. Which is why it took so long to get back on the blog.

Today was my first day of work at my real school, and everyone was very friendly. It's a small school, only about 35-40 staff total. The two teachers with whom I'll be co-teaching are very friendly and open-minded and flexible. That's good. However, it suddenly dawned on me today that I will be the ONLY special ed person at this school. Eeeps! I'll have to have all the answers! Currently, the social worker at school has been doing lots of paperwork and helping with kiddos, but now that will probably shift to me. I don't know. On the other hand, that makes me the Department Head. It's all up in the air, which is exciting but also nerve-wracking. We have files on a few kiddos coming in, at least one with autism, but most kids will be a surprise on the first day of school. We're going to be their first school experience, their first "intervention," so it will be up to us/me to say, "Hmm, that kid's not right! What are we going to do about it?!?" Ah. My time is running out! I must leave you! But know that I love you all!!!!! Hugs,Kiki

p.s. If this post sounds familiar to you, I'm so sorry! Kristin stole it from our blog, travelled back in time, and preemptively sent it as an email a couple of days ago.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On the road

It was a rainy day when we left Florida. Texas or Bust. Wish us luck.